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Court grants Govt injunction preventing immigration shutdown

By \\\\\ Joel Julien joel.julien@trinidadexpress.com

The Industrial Court yesterday granted an injunction preventing the Public Services Association (PSA) from taking further industrial action at the Immigration Department because the national interest is being threatened by it.

There was an emergency sitting around 4.30 p.m. of the Industrial Court on St Vincent Street, Port of Spain, with a special five-member panel.

President of the Industrial Court, Deborah Thomas-Felix, and four other judges listened to the injunction which sought to restrain industrial action at the Immigration Department.

 It was filed by the Minister of Labour and Small and Micro Enterprise Development, Errol McLeod, based on advice given by the Attorney General. 

The other judges were Larry Achong, Albert Aberdeen, Kyril Jack and Kathleen George-Marcelle.

The Labour Ministry was represented by Senior Counsel Russell Martineau and attorneys Addison Khan and Derek Ali.

PSA officials were not present.

Martineau told the court the action being taken by the PSA was a threat to this country’s national interest.

He said a critical function of the Immigration Department was the issue of deportation.

“There may be people who are allowed to enter the country but may not be permitted to stay,” Martineau said.

Martineau said according to Section 65 of the Industrial Relations Act he was requesting a stop order in the national interest.

Section 65 of the Industrial Relations Act states:

“Where industrial action is threatened or taken, whether in conformity with this act or otherwise, and the minister considers that the national interest is threatened or affected thereby, he may make an application to the court ex parte for an injunction restraining the parties from commencing or from continuing the action; and the court may make such order thereon as it considers fit having regard to the national interest.”

Martineau said the Labour Minister hoped there would have been a resolution in the issue.

“The minister has exercised patience and waited until today to see what would happen,” Martineau said.

Martineau said the issue of health and safety being presented by the PSA as the reason for the action was a “ruse”.

He said health and safety were not an “imminent threat” which could be evidenced by the PSA’s decision to allow its members to go to work for half-day.

“We are not against workers but every civilised, democratic society knows there is a limit to certain things,” Martineau said.

“This situation is too serious to leave idly by. We virtually have no choice,” he said.

Chief Immigration Officer Gerry Downes was present in court yesterday.

Affidavits by Downes and McLeod were filed at the Industrial Court.

Paragraph 15 of McLeod’s affidavit states:

“It is clear to me that the Public Services Association, its officers, servants and or agents and /or its members and/ or Immigration Department workers have deliberately embarked upon a course of conduct intended to compel the Government to agree to certain demands in respect of terms and conditions of employment in respect of civil servants without regard to the consequences for the people of Trinidad and Tobago, the national interest, or the provisions of the Immigration Act.”

Paragraph 16 of Mc Leod’s affidavit states:

“Having regard to all the circumstances, therefore, I consider that the national interest is threatened or affected by the current industrial action by the Public Services Association of Trinidad and Tobago and its members and I hereby apply to the Honourable Court for the ex parte injunction in the national interest pursuant to Section 65 (1) of the Act.”

The PSA was expected to be served with the injunction late last night. It has 48 hours to respond.

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